There are A LOT of festivals in Canada. It’s a huge country, with a lot of talent, so it totally makes sense.
Spanning almost 10 million square kilometres, it’s the second largest country in the world (first? Russia). That means, chances are you’re never gonna see all of it, especially not in one go. But one way to learn more about a country, in quick time, is to go to one of their festivals.
Canadian music festivals are legendary. I went to the Dawson City Music Festival recently and had a great time.
Tick off some of the many festivals in Canada, and with it, you’ll discover a new Canadian destination each time.
From the depths of a Vancouver winter to summer sunshine in Toronto, attending a few Canadian festivals can have you travelling from east coast to west coast sampling the diverse culture, terrain and weather the country has to offer.
And don’t think you’re tied to just Canadian music festivals, you can check out everything from food festivals to film festivals.
The best Canadian Festivals
To help you get started on narrowing down with festivals of Canada you’d like to see, I’ve highlighted some of my personal faves below.
1. Quebec Winter Carnival
When Quebec Winter Carnival? 7-16 February
Where is Quebec Winter Carnival? Quebec City
“Every year, thousands of visitors flock to the Quebec Winter Carnival to enjoy a host of activities for all ages, including an ice canoe race, night parades, snow sculptures, and Bonhomme’s Ice Palace.”
The Quebec Winter Carnival is one of the best festivals in February around the world, you can see the others on that link.
2. Canadian Tulip Festival
When is Canadian Tulip Festival? 8-18 May
Where is Canadian Tulip Festival? Ottawa
“The Canadian Tulip Festival was established to celebrate the historic royal gift of tulips from the Dutch to Canadians immediately following the Second World War as a symbol of international friendship. The festival preserves the memorable role of the Canadian troops in the liberation of the Netherlands and Europe, as well as commemorates the birth of Dutch Princess Margriet in Ottawa during World War II — the only royal personage ever born in Canada.”
3. Bard on the Beach
When is Bard on the Beach? June 11 – Sep 26
Where is Bard on the Beach? Vanier Park, Vancouver
“Bard on the Beach is Western Canada’s largest not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare festival. Presented in a magnificent setting on the waterfront in Vancouver’s Vanier Park, the festival offers Shakespeare plays, related dramas and several special events in two performance tents from June through September.”
4. North by Northeast
When is North by Northeast? 12-21 June
Where is North by Northeast? Yonge Dundas Square, Toronto
“North by Northeast is a 10-day summer festival destination for emerging artists, major-label headliners and for digital interactive innovators, bridging the gap between technology and the arts.
NXNE is an essential gathering spot for artists, industry professionals and fans. NXNE includes a major three-day music festival in the heart of the city at Yonge Dundas Square.”
5. Montreal International Jazz Festival
When is Montreal International Jazz Festival? June 25 – July 4
Where is Montreal International Jazz Festival? Montreal
“Ranked as the world’s largest jazz festival in the Guinness World Records, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal has been synonymous with a passion for music for over 40 years.
Every year for 10 days, the French-speaking metropolis of North America becomes the venue where fans of all types of jazz-related music rub shoulders with aficionados of jazz in its purest form. All on a unique site designed to meet festival goers’ every need, right downtown in an area off-limits to car traffic. Montreal is without a doubt the true heartbeat of Planet Jazz.”
If you want to spend some time in Montreal, check out my guide to a weekend in Montreal for some inspiration.
6. Dreams Festival
When is Dreams Festival? 29-30 June
Where is Dreams Festival? Echo Beach, East Island, Ontario Place, Toronto
Dreams Festival website
“Bud Light Dreams Music Festival is a 19+ boutique festival experience for a discerning electronic music fan, taking place at East Island – Ontario Place in downtown Toronto, on the shores of Lake Ontario.
A new luxury festival with a familiar feel, Dreams is a two day, three stage, outdoor, sensorial celebration of Toronto’s music and arts community.”
7. Dauphin’s Country Fest
When is Dauphin’s Country Fest? 2-5 July
Where is Dauphin’s Country Fest? Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
“Dauphin’s Countryfest is Canada’s longest running country music festival and has a history of providing first class entertainment to the many loyal fans who have attended the festival over the years.”
8. The Calgary Stampede
When is The Calgary Stampede? 3-12 July
Where is The Calgary Stampede? Stampede Park, Calgary
“The Calgary Stampede has been a community symbol for over a century. A not-for-profit organization that places volunteers at the heart of the company, the Calgary Stampede preserves and celebrates our western heritage, cultures and community spirit.
Although best known for the world-renowned 10-day event, the Calgary Stampede hosts over 1,200 events, provides learning opportunities to 50,000 youth, supports performing arts and contributes $4,000,000 million to the economy every year.”
9. Quebec City Summer Festival
(Festival d’été de Québec)
When is Quebec City Summer Festival? 9-19 July
Where is Quebec City Summer Festival? Quebec City
“Famous throughout the world, Festival d’été de Québec is the most important outdoor music festival in Canada. For over 50 years now, it spices up the summer of thousands of festival-goers who flock to Québec City to enjoy the FEQ’s festive atmosphere.
At the cutting edge of world trends, the festival’s bold and eclectic 11-day programming includes international stars and emerging artists alike, at an unbeatable price.”
10. Dawson City Music Festival
I made a video about my week in Dawson City – check it out!
When is Dawson City Music Festival? 17-19 July 2020
Where is Dawson City Music Festival? Dawson City, Yukon
“Since 1979 this event has grown from a weekend barbeque in a field into the centerpiece of the Yukon summer. Despite its humble beginnings, it has turned into an all-consuming event in our community. It is one of the most anticipated events in the north, and sets a standard for excellence in programming.
The latest Canadian version of the board game Trivial Pursuit includes a question about the moniker given to the festival by Vancouver’s Georgia Straight, “Canada’s tiny, perfect festival.”
Come join us in celebrating DCMF’s 42nd festival under the Midnight Sun!”
11. Shambhala Music Festival
When is Shambhala Music Festival? 24-27 July
Where is Shambhala Music Festival? Salmo, British Columbia
“On a sunny Labour Day weekend back 1998, some 500 people gathered at the Salmo River Ranch for a party that showcased local art and music.
Since those early, heady days, Shambhala grew with enthusiasm by word of mouth, quickly becoming a staple event for the west coast underground electronic music scene. Today it attracts world-renowned DJs and artists and some of the most eclectic, energetic fans in the universe. The festival is built on Shambhalove which shines brightly to this day.”
12. Vancouver Celebration of Light
When is Vancouver Celebration of Light? July 25, 29 and Aug 1
Where is Vancouver Celebration of Light? English Bay, Vancouver
“The Honda Celebration of Light is British Columbia’s flagship public event, and the largest annual offshore fireworks competition in the world. Staged along Vancouver’s beautiful English Bay, the week-long festival showcases the city on the world stage and continues to be one of Vancouver’s best-known and most popular summer festivals.
The Honda Celebration of Light showcases pyrotechnic displays by competing countries during the three firework nights. World leaders in the pyrotechnic industry come together to represent their country through choreographed firework displays set to themed music.”
When is OSHEAGA? July 31- August 2
Where is OSHEAGA? Parc Jean-Drapeau, Saint Helen’s Island, Montreal
“Since 2006, the OSHEAGA Music and Arts festival presented by Virgin Mobile, in collaboration with Coors Light, has established itself as the most important festival of its genre in North America. With its numerous outdoor stages located at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Montreal’s Saint Helen’s Island, OSHEAGA attracts 135,000 music lovers from around the world.
A huge celebration dedicated to music and visual arts, OSHEAGA has given itself the objective of championing the discovery of local and national emerging talent offering them the opportunity to play alongside some of the biggest international artists in the business.
Over the course of several days, over 100 bands will take to the various stages at Parc Jean-Drapeau and across the city in the festive ambiance that only a Montreal summer can provide. OSHEAGA also holds a series of concerts and exhibitions in several locations around the city during the week leading up to the main event.”
14. Astral Harvest
When is Astral Harvest? July 2020 dates unconfirmed
Where is Astral Harvest? Lesser Slave Lake North
“Nestled in the beautiful boreal wilderness of Northern Alberta, Astral Harvest offers a warm and accepting electronic music festival experience and a feast for the senses. The festival blends an energetic nighttime party vibe with a fun, family-friendly atmosphere by day and features a vast array of incredible musical talents.
Astral Harvest offers 5 unique stages and an impressive line-up of anticipated international and local DJs and acoustic acts, powered by the ever-impressive PK Sound. Astral Harvest reaches beyond the thrill of sound with an equal emphasis on daytime activities. “Astral Harvard” conferences and workshops help to bring people together by inspiring new thoughts and ideas and igniting each participant’s creative spark.”
15. Just for Laughs Montreal
When is Just for Laughs? July 2020 dates unconfirmed
Where is Just for Laughs? Montreal
“Founded in 1983, the Just For Laughs Group’s growth is concentrated on three major focal points: festivals (in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Sydney); television production and stand-up specials (most notably Gags, seen in 135 countries and on 100 airlines); and live shows (Canadian tour dates for Jerry Seinfeld, Jeremy Hotz, Amy Schumer, Danny Bhoy, and Family Guy Live! to name a few).
The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, which will celebrate its 38th edition in 2020, is the world’s largest and most prestigious comedy event, welcoming more than 2 million people each summer.”
16. Edmonton Folk Music Festival
When is Edmonton Folk Festival? 6-9 August
Where is Edmonton Folk Festival? Gallagher Park, Edmonton
“Set in the lush river valley with the city skyline as its backdrop, the festival is an annual gathering that has come to epitomize Edmonton as a “festival city.” Whether you come to listen to music, reconnect with old friends, or join the army of volunteers who keep the festival running, this family friendly event has become world renowned since it was started in 1980.”
17. Edmonton International Fringe Festival
When is Edmonton International Fringe Festival? August 2020 dates unconfirmed
Where is Edmonton International Fringe Festival? Edmonton, Alberta
“The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is an annual theatre Festival produced by Fringe Theatre. Every August, 1,600+ artists descend upon Edmonton to participate in the largest, longest-running Fringe Festival in North America. Offering 1,600+ performances across 45+ venues in just 11 days, the festival has deep roots in the community.”
18. Chasing Summer Festival
When is Chasing Summer Festival? 1-3 August
Where is Chasing Summer Festival? Calgary, Alberta
“Living in the prairies of Canada is the pursuit of the fleeting. Winter dominates the calendar, while the most desired season of them all – summer – is heartbreakingly short by comparison. It becomes an obsessive pursuit for all, eager to grab what they can before the leaves change to herald the impending harvest and snowy landscape to come.
This is the reason why Canadians love summer so desperately. CHASING SUMMER is a celebration of this passion.”
19. Toronto International Film Festival
When is Toronto International Film Festival? September 2020 dates unconfirmed
Where is Toronto International Film Festival? Toronto
“Starting out in 1976 as a collection of films from other festivals — a “festival of festivals” — the Toronto International Film Festival has become one of the most beloved cinematic events in the world, universally regarded as an ideal platform for filmmakers to launch their careers and to premiere their new work. The festival has been described as “the most important film festival in the world — the largest, the most influential, the most inclusive.”
20. Celtic Colours International Festival
When is Celtic Colours International Festival? 9-17 October
Where is Celtic Colours International Festival? Cape Breton
“The Celtic Colours International Festival is a unique celebration of Cape Breton Island’s living traditional culture. For nine days in October you’ll discover hundreds of events and activities taking place in communities across the Island.”
21. Snowbombing Canada
When is Snowbombing Canada? April 2020 dates unconfirmed
Where is Snowbombing Canada? Sun Peaks, British Columbia
“Snowbombing Canada is a festival filled with fresh air, blue skies, black runs and white-hot parties. An exhilarating week-long whirlwind of brilliant bands and world class DJs in the unrivalled setting of Sun Peaks, British Columbia, Canada.”
22. TD Salsa in Toronto Featuring TD Salsa on St. Clair
When is TD Salsa in Toronto? Sat July 9 & Sun July 10 2022
Where is TD Salsa in Toronto? Toronto
Canada’s #1 Latino-themed cultural celebration, the TD Salsa in Toronto Festival features a series of city-wide events throughout June and July that celebrate the Latino culture through music, dance, art and authentic cuisine. The festivities feature Latin dance and art exhibitions, concerts, salsa dance parties, and a cultural parade, all capped off with the main event, the annual TD Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival on Sat July 9 & Sun July 10.
The annual FREE TD Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival takes over midtown Toronto transforming a stretch of St. Clair Avenue West (from Winona Dr. to Christie St.) into Canada’s biggest salsa party featuring an international calibre of Latin music, non-stop dancing in the streets, Latin foods and fun for the entire family! What started as a local two-day event in 2005, has grown into a nationally recognized annual celebration that attracts hundreds of thousands of salsa lovers from near and far.
The TD Salsa in Toronto Festival and TD Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival are produced by the Canadian Salsa Festivals Project, a federally incorporated Not-for-Profit organisation.